Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora feature image

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora review – Familiar faces and places

Not for you if:

  • You suffer from open-world-burnout.
  • Hate the Avatar movies (you heretic).
  • You were on the British side during their colonisation aka plundering of other cultures.
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Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is what Ubisoft does best. They have mastered the open-world model through trial and error and always build upon what they know. Not every gamer needs a new innovative mechanic or play-style, most gamers enjoy the comfort of something they know. How else would FIFA or COD keep on selling so well?

TL;DR

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is a familiar model with all the bells and whistles we expect from an open world Ubisoft game. Without most of the hassle and bloat we sometimes find, the gear grind is incorporated well into the setting and on top of that Pandora looks astonishing. The movement is sublime and so smooth it’s hard to go back to slower and more clunky games. Flying around with your Ikran is a blast and becomes readily available once you’ve unlocked it. These features make traversing Pandora a joy. Near spotless performance in quality mode is just the cherry on top.

Your first contact with the nature of Pandora after being captured.

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora – Familiar

Take flight and soar through the skies, exploring the floating island and rocks. Fighting the RDA in the sky and travelling fast.

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora can be summed up with one word and that is ‘Familiar’. From the story to gameplay elements, ninety percent of it will have you point at the screen like Leonardo DiCaprio in that one meme. To be honest, Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is a perfect blend of both James Cameron’s movies and Ubisoft’s world-building in video games.

Stories of the vast Western Frontiers

Are we seeing a lot of new things in Avatar Frontiers of Pandora? Not really; flying and parkour movements have been done before. The world of Pandora, the Na’vi, RDA and creatures we encounter are all based on James Cameron’s Avatar movies. Ubisoft however did a banger job of making Avatar Frontiers of Pandora as true to the movies as they could. Maybe even a bit too much, but they nailed it nonetheless. It felt like I was playing alongside the movies. As a part of the resistance in somewhere on Pandora. Fighting for the planet and the Na’vi to maintain the delicate balance of Pandora and Eywa. By eradicating and blowing up RDA facilities across three biomes.

Haven’t we seen this before? Story (No spoilers beyond the first 30 minutes)

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of the Avatar movies. They are beautiful movies with an even more interesting message behind them. But I do think both movies largely had the same story, one in the sky and the second one in the water. Overall the grand narrative came down to the same thing. Jake Sully learning the Na’vi ways of the clans he stays with. Each with their own rituals and habits, creatures to master and delicacies to taste.

Connecting to the wildlife to learn their past and understand what they need. Just Na'vi things.

How the game ties into the movies

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is no different, you are a kidnapped Sarentu orphan. Your clan has been wiped out and you have been raised by Mercer. A human without much mercy, although his name might make you think otherwise. The RDA claims to use you and your five fellow kidnapped Na’vi for The Ambassador Project as a way to work as intermediaries between Na’vi and humans.

By teaching you human history and sociology to understand humans better and to teach other Na’vi. Little does the RDA know you are all planning an escape, that goes terribly wrong and your sister ends up killed by Mercer. Eight years later, Jake Sully’s rebellion forces the retreat of the RDA and Mercer orders you all killed.

By the mercy of Alma, a Na’vi sympathizer and professor, you and your fellow classmates are saved through cryosleep, hidden deep within the facility. Sixteen years later Alma and the Na’vi resistance wake you. The RDA has returned and the resistance needs you and your old clan reputation to reunite the clans to stand up to the RDA. The Sarentu name hasn’t been sung in a long time and you are to revive their legend. After escaping and connecting to Eywa, you converse with one of your ancestors and your goal becomes clear. Take back Pandora by reuniting the clans and discovering the past of the Sarentu along the way.

Connecting to Eywa for the first time, the beautifull pink tentacle plant looks straight from a bad hentai but it contains the essence and connection of everything on Pandora.

Familiar baby steps and pacing

From here on out you will discover many similarities with the movies. You are Na’vi in nature but human in nurture. This means you go through all the steps of learning the ways of the Na’vi and the world Pandora. What plants can heal and mend and what can kill and hurt, what wildlife is dangerous and where to find the materials needed to create your Na’vi tools. The story takes you through these steps shortly after the first part. Your actions with Alma didn’t go unnoticed and you are taken in by the Aranahea clan. A motherly figure guides you through what the jungle has to offer and helps you understand the connection that the Na’vi and Eywa share.

There are even some references to Jake Sully and the movies as you are playing along. Events that happened have an ‘influence’ on your story. And by that I mean they have built a narrative around things that happen in Avatar the movie that is sometimes brought up. If by any chance you didn’t get into the story of the Avatar movies you will definitely not like what Avatar Frontiers of Pandora has to offer.

Post-battle scene in Avatar: Frontiers of pandora

Familiar gameplay elements with a blue twist

When that first trailer dropped and I saw a blue thin arm pull a lever I was laughing my ass off as I recognized that animation from Far Cry 6 (review here if you want). It also set the bar of expectations pretty low for Avatar Frontiers of Pandora. But that was early footage, a first look at what was cooking and boy did it turn out good.

RDA facility before blowing it up. Cold, brown and grey.RDA facility after blowing it up and giving nature some time. The base is overgrown with green grass, plants and rare resources for you to gather.
Bases before and after.

The Ubisoft Template

So if we do the Ubisoft checklist we got everything we expect:

  • An open world
  • Points of interest
  • Gear with colors to indicate rarity
  • Some form of gear score or level
  • Bases to destroy or liberate
  • Some form of challenge to master a weapon or skill
  • Collecting materials
  • Skill trees
  • Activating lever animation

But the thing is, I don’t mind that. I expect that from a Ubisoft game and I expect it to be good. Sure, Valhalla was way too big and slow and Odyssey got grindy and the Far Cry series got very repetitive. But Ubisoft worked with the criticisms and have built upon what we liked. They perfected that craft and made a comfy familiar template that is relaxing and fun to spend time in.

Gorgeous view of the third biome, alien palm trees litter the valley in this alien boreal forest.

Be Na’Vi

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora brings some new elements that aren’t forced into the game but feel like a natural part of it. A prime example is the collecting of materials, where a mini-game allows you to get better quality materials. Picking mushrooms the correct way at the correct time gives a material with better stats. It fits the Na’Vi mindset of being one with Pandora and respecting the plants and animals that give their life and body for your growth and strength.

The parkour with its floaty movement feels natural as you dash and jump through the forest. Scaling trees and hopping from branch to branch. You feel like an actual 4m tall light footed Na’Vi in its natural habitat.

You don’t play a full frontal warrior that can take on legions of humans and AMP’s. While you can, the game clearly rewards a stealthy guerilla approach. Embrace the eco terrorist inside you and use human and Na’Vi tools to destroy installation after installation and witness nature reclaim its place. Sounds like an add, but Avatar Frontiers of Pandora delivers exactly that.

Grow stronger by learning more of the Na’Vi ways and craft stronger tools as you learn more of the nature of Pandora and the materials on offer. Each new biome brings new materials to discover and use in crafting to grow stronger.

Your Ikran after you have captured it. Stroking its beak as it looks at you with its yellow eyes and colourfull skin.

Minor hiccups and major awe factor

Overall I had one crash on the Xbox Series X when I was playing Avatar Frontiers of Pandora. Zone changes come with some stutters as everything is loaded in real time, no loading screens. I did notice worse graphical performance when playing in performance mode. Certain distant meshes stopped loading in or only half-half, resulting in some weird views. I can honestly say Avatar Frontiers of Pandora is the first game where I preferred quality over performance. The speed of action isn’t as high paced as other games and it simply looks too good to turn it off.

Background Simulator 2023

Pandora is beautiful beyond anything I’ve seen so far. To be able to walk in it and experience the lush jungles, open plains and dense boreal forest was breathtaking. The opening scene after you leave your prison facility will blow you away with colour, sound and pure awe of what Ubisoft and James Cameron have created. At certain points I just took screenshots thinking I was going for my new monitor background a la windows landscape backgrounds. Each biome feels distinctly different but still a part of the Pandora you explore.

  • Gorgeous view of the third biome, alien palm trees litter the valley in this alien boreal forest.
  • The gorgeos jungles of Pandora, waterfalls, vines and low hanging trees.
  • At night the plants become luminescent with blue and purple colours, creating a beautifull spectacle of nature.
  • The great open plains of the second biome have its beauty. The flat reaches allow for fast travel using a horse like creature you can temporarly tame.
  • Nature flocking back after you destroy RDA facilities, small deer like creatures flock back as plants and trees regain their colour.
  • Windows background simulator 2023, green jungle with strange rock formations in the background and waterfalls flowing through them.

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora Conclusion

A must buy if you are a diehard Avatar fan. If you aren’t but still like the movies, Avatar Frontiers of Pandora offers a solid gaming experience that is fun to play. It’s familiar and comforting within a beautiful setting and story based upon becoming instead of fighting.

I was pleasantly surprised by Avatar Frontiers of Pandora and so was anyone that got its hands on it. The price is spicy and the year was thick with games to fill your backlog, but I do recommend you pick it up whenever your time and wallet allow it.

Thank you Ubisoft for this great game to be my last review of the year 2023.

Stijn Ginneberge

Posts published: 133

Gaming for me is about experiencing their stories, overcoming challenges, living in fantasy worlds and exploring alien planets. You can also find me in the local game store or on an airsoft field.